National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure

For several years, the Canadian Public Works Association (CPWA) has actively supported increased investment in public infrastructure throughout Canada. CPWA members have been key partners in the National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure Project: Innovations and Best Practices ("The Guide"), a four-year national project as described below. A 20-member Project Steering Committee governs the Guide Project, and CPWA members are well represented. The Steering Committee is chaired by Dwayne Kalynchuk, General Manager, Planning & Engineering, City of St. Albert, Alberta and APWA Board member. Other Steering Committee members of note include Wally Wells, CPWA President and partner in Dillon Consulting, Ltd. of Toronto; Ric Robertshaw, past president of CPWA and Director of Environmental Services, Halton Region, Ontario; Dave Rudberg, Director of Engineering Services for the City of Vancouver, British Columbia; and Bill Crowther, Director of Engineering Services, City of Toronto. (Membership of CPWA consists of all APWA members who reside in Canada.)

What is the National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure?
The National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure: Innovations and Best Practices will provide municipalities across Canada with the best available solutions for addressing municipal infrastructure development issues (planning, design, construction, management, assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation). By identifying best practices, the Guide will encourage municipal practitioners to use innovative approaches in both their decision-making and actions related to sustainable infrastructure. With funding from the Infrastructure Canada Program, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the National Research Council (NRC) are implementing the project together with a community of participants and professional associations.

What is the scope of the Guide?
The Guide will have two interrelated parts:

A decision-making and investment planning tool will help municipalities use best practices to identify needs, set funding priorities, and select, develop and implement infrastructure projects. The tool will also illustrate the best ways to achieve a high return on investment, evaluate life cycle costs and support benchmarking. Ultimately, it will enable both technical staff and elected officials to manage their infrastructure assets more effectively.

A compendium of technical best practices will feature various sets of technical modules, offering information on the best available technologies and methods related to municipal infrastructure.

For the purposes of the Guide, best practices have been defined as state of the art methodologies and technologies for municipal infrastructure planning, design, construction, management, assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation that take into consideration local economic, environmental and social factors.

What specific issues will be given priority?
The Guide's scope is extensive. Therefore, issues will be addressed over time. Consulting firms are currently gathering information on existing practices in Canadian municipal governments through a series of 16 focused "scans." Technical Committees will assess the background data provided by the scans and recommend best practices in the areas of Decision-Making & Investment Planning, Environmental Protocols, Municipal Roads and Sidewalks, Potable Water, and Storm and Wastewater.

For the first round of best practices, Technical Committees have identified the issues listed below.

Decision-Making and Investment Planning Committee

  • Develop criteria/tests for balance between political, social, economic, and environmental benefits and risks
  • Define the various levels of service in the context of Decision-Making and Investment Planning
  • Develop high level benchmarks, indicators or reference points for policy level investment planning decisions
Environmental Protocols Committee
  • Defining local environmental conditions, challenges and opportunities with respect to municipal infrastructure
  • Determining the environmental costs and benefits associated with the desired level of municipal infrastructure service
  • Determining the appropriate carrying capacity of the existing environment
Municipal Roads and Sidewalks Committee
  • Preventative maintenance of municipal roads
  • Repair and replacement of utility access boxes (catch basins, valve boxes, electrical boxes, manholes)
  • Inspection and condition assessment of utility access boxes
Potable Water Committee
  • How to reduce losses in transmission and distribution systems-water accountability
  • How to determine what causes the transmission/distribution system to deteriorate and fail
  • Inspection, condition assessment, and evaluation of performance of water transmission and distribution systems, both in terms of structure and capacity
Stormwater and Wastewater Committee
  • Prioritizing and choosing technologies for construction and rehabilitation (linear systems)
  • Methods to implement source controls (for stormwater and wastewater) and to control/reduce inflow/infiltration (I/I) (focus on sanitary sewers)
  • How to get consistent sets of data for comparison
  • Inspection, condition assessment, and evaluation of performance of stormwater and wastewater collection systems, both in terms of structure and capacity
Once the first round of best practice studies is complete, a second round will address new issues within the five broad technical areas.

What stage is the Guide at now?
The five Guide Technical Committees held their first meetings in late July and early August, 2001 to set priorities for developing best practices. Since the Guide seeks to build on existing knowledge and avoid duplication, workshops were held before each Committee meeting to obtain input from key public and private stakeholders, including the federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as national associations. Participants at these workshops shared their knowledge of current activities related to existing guidelines and best practices with their colleagues.

At the meetings, the Guide Technical Committees evaluated priority best practices in light of the following:

  • Benefits to a large population segment;
  • Innovation;
  • Existing knowledge in the particular area of the proposed best practice;
  • Ability to address a wide range of regional variations;
  • Relation to existing/pending regulation; and
  • Contribution to sustainable development.
The Guide Directorate then issued Requests for Proposals to a number of consulting firms. Successful firms are now carrying out the best practice scans. The committees will use the results of these scans as a foundation for selecting the Guide Best Practices.

When will I see results from the first round of best practice priorities?
The first best practice modules are scheduled for release in spring 2002. They will be distributed electronically or by fax to a large number of stakeholders who will be asked for feedback. Following a review of the responses, the best practices will be finalized and available on the Guide website and in hard copy in early summer of 2002.

How will the Guide benefit me?
The modules will provide the most current information on best practices and address the differences between big and small towns, urban and rural municipalities, and northern and remote communities. By presenting best practices for all geographic and climatic conditions, the Guide will be useful to all Canadian municipalities. In addition, the Guide will include a major education and training component.

How do I get involved in the Guide project?
The National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure already has a substantial roster of people who want to participate on either the technical committees or the working groups that support these committees. However, we are still looking for volunteers with expertise in specific areas, as well as people who can replace committee members during the rotation process. If you are interested, please check out our website (see below).

In addition, you can participate by providing comments on the draft Guide modules. Your input into this process will be key to the success of our work.

How can I get more information on the National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure?
Visit our website at for a list of Guide committee members and Guide Regional Contacts or contact the Guide Directorate directly at our toll-free number: 1-866-330-3350.